Monday, July 2, 2018

Designing for our audiences in Teaching California

The California Historical Society (CHS) and its partners at The California History and Social Science Project (CHSSP) have the unique opportunity, thanks to a substantial grant from the state’s Department of Education, to develop Teaching California, a free K-12 online curriculum that puts California’s archives at the center of student investigation into the past. Crucial to this initiative will be taking a co-designing approach with the audiences we want to engage, so that what is created is as discoverable and widely-used by those audiences as possible.

Brainstorming Teaching California audiences in an internal session at CHS in early April. Questions explored included: Who are the people or groups reached directly by Teaching California? Which are more peripherally relevant but still stand to benefit from what we create?

When embarking on a user-centered design approach, the first step is to identify and gain empathy for your users. For our project team, this meant making our implicit primary audiences explicit and discussing the range of periphery audiences who stand to benefit from what we create.

On April 25th, CHS and CHSSP teammates met for a session to do just that and to determine what success for those audiences might look like as we plan for website development. CHSSP, based out of the University of California at Davis, are teacher professional development experts and the primary authors of the state’s recently adopted History and Social Science Framework, which provides the foundation for our content work on Teaching California.

The CHS and CHSSP teams reviewing Teaching California primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences and what signifies success for those audiences at an all-hands-on-deck session on April 25th, 2018.

While teachers unsurprisingly emerged as a core primary audience, the California County Offices of Education also emerged as primary audiences for what will be a crucial role in project dissemination to local teachers. And we could not forget that Teaching California will be important to the growth and development of both the CHSSP and CHS organizations, who will also serve as important primary audiences. This was a fun and productive session and our group cycled through many self-adhesive flipcharts!

Following this session, we worked with CHSSP to develop basic user profiles for the primary audiences we identified. User profiles acts as a cursory audience examination, allowing a project team to think more holistically about a project and to start to tie ‘why’ a project is being developed together with ‘whom’ it is being developed for. While we will have the opportunity to continue a more in-depth audience analysis in the coming months, this exercise allowed us to scope out the basic needs and motivations of those we will be designing for.

An excerpt of the questions we explored to form our user profiles.

As we aim for statewide reach for Teaching California, which we hope will help spur Framework adoption across all corners of the state, identifying our audiences has helped our CHS website design team address some important challenges including: How can we create an online resource for the diverse California school communities teachers serve, and how can we co-design with them throughout the project to continue addressing needs? 

We are looking forward to continuing to develop out our process for co-designing for our audiences, so follow along with our progress here!

The California Historical Society is working in partnership with the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: a free and expansive online set of instructional materials to support the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework. Comprised of curated primary source material from California's premier archives, libraries, and museums. Teaching California presents a research-based approach to improving student reading, writing, and critical thinking.  This post comes from Kerri Young, Teaching California Project Manager. You can reach out to her at

Friday, June 1, 2018

Event recap: Rolling out California's new History and Social Science Framework in Sonoma

CHSSP's Statewide office team and Teaching California Project Manager Kerri in front of the day's schedule, May 22nd, 2018. Left to right: Tuyen Tran (CHSSP), Nancy McTygue (CHSSP), Kerri Young (CHS), Beth Slutsky (CHSSP).

On May 22nd, our friends and partners at the California History and Social Science Project (CHSSP) invited us to attend a local conference at Sonoma State University, part of series they are doing to promote California's new History and Social Science Framework. The CHSSP served as the primary writers of the new Framework, adopted by the State Board of Education in 2016, which outlines an instructional approach that promotes student-centered inquiry and encourages students to develop clear and persuasive arguments based on their own interpretations of the past, using relevant evidence. While the history and social science standards for California provide the “what” of an instructional program (unchanged), the Framework helps flesh out the “how (new!)”

CHSSP Director Nancy giving the day's opening address. She was joined onstage by Michelle Herczog of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (far left), and Kristin Cruz Allen of the California Department of Education.

As we continue to work with CHSSP to create and implement Teaching California, this was an opportunity to dig into the important instructional shifts that inform the content development work we are doing. With its emphasis on content, inquiry, literacy, and citizenship, the Framework, and by extension our project, will offer students the opportunity to learn about the world and their place in it, think critically, read, write, and communicate clearly, all through a uniquely California lens.

Our Reference Librarian, Frances Kaplan, and I attended multiple sessions, learning about as many sections of the Framework as we could. From the new FAIR Education Act's role in the new Framework rollout, to the ways Ethnic Studies, Literacy, and US History content are articulated, there was a lot to learn!

CHS Reference Librarian Frances Kaplan (right), with Molly Snider from Mendocino's California Office of Education. Molly hosted a session we attended focusing on K-5 Inquiry, and the importance of introducing students to primary sources at an early age.

As Teaching California's Project Manager, it was fantastic to get a closer look at the monumental effort that was the writing and adopting of the Framework, as well as having the opportunity to speak with local K-12 teachers and administrators. We were very inspired learning about the ways they are already helping students learn inquiry, literacy, and citizenship in the classroom, and how the new Framework will help better guide and build upon the work that they are already championing in their schools. Further, all were excited at the prospect of incorporating these skills into the history and social science curriculum as early as Kindergarten, a shift in approach that builds capacity even before students enter middle school.

In a session about how Ethnic Studies is articulated in the Framework, participants were asked to consider California's ethnic makeup and how that compares with the rest of the country. We discussed how the Framework can help teachers, according to CHSSP Site Director Rachel Reinhard, bring their students' "full cultural self to the classroom space."

But for many teachers, Framework implementation does not come without its fair share of challenges, including in many cases the lack of up-to-date textbooks, or starting out as the sole champion of the Framework at his or her school and faced with the task of building capacity in a strategic and resourceful way. Hearing these comments, it was heartening to know that Teaching California will be able to fill a crucial need by providing free and online resources for teachers to more easily implement the Framework in their local areas.

Handouts from the day. 

A lovely day at Sonoma State's Student Center. 

For more information about California's new History and Social Science Framework, visit CHSSP's website at and the California Department of Education’s Framework page at

Stay tuned for more on Teaching California here soon!

The California Historical Society is working in partnership with the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: a free and expansive online set of instructional materials to support the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework. Comprised of curated primary source material from California's premier archives, libraries, and museums, Teaching California presents a research-based approach to improving student reading, writing, and critical thinking. This post comes from Kerri Young, Teaching California Project Manager. You can reach out to her at 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Libraries Lead: Showcasing the North Baker Research Library’s collections

The role of the research library in a special collections archive often poses a problem: how do we support access to our collections when we are open limited days, and when, in order to protect and preserve our often fragile materials, collections cannot leave our reading room?

Here at the California Historical Society, we know that to succeed in our mission of making our State’s history part of the lives of contemporary Californians, we needed to make our collections accessible in ways that went beyond the traditional reference library. By including our unique materials in exhibitions and public programs, in publications and on social media, we are able to provide people far greater, and more varied, opportunities to interact with the wonderful photographs, manuscripts, maps, and rare books that make up our collections.

Here is a glimpse into some of the projects staff are working on currently:

Thursday, March 1, 2018

#onthisday 50 years ago, the East L.A. Walkouts Began

#Onthisday 50 years ago, the influential East L.A. School Walkouts (Blowouts) began, transforming the Chicano movement in Los Angeles. 

Over two weeks, tens of thousands of young Latino students took to the streets to protest conditions in their schools on the East Los Angeles. In many ways, the walkouts (primarily at Wilson, Roosevelt, Garfield, Belmont and Lincoln high schools) were the first public display of an urban Chicano rights movement that had begun among California farm workers in the previous several years. The walkouts were the first mass mobilization of Mexican-Americans in Southern California. 

The East L.A. Walkouts and their impact are being remembered through over the next couple of weeks in a range of ways, from conferences to news articles. See some of these efforts below

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Who Tells Your Story? California Historical Society Extends Exhibitions about Colonial Histories on the East and West Coasts

The California Historical Society (CHS) has announced that it will extend its current exhibitions--- bringing the complex story of Alexander Hamilton to San Francisco as part of an initiative showcasing two versions of the United States’ colonial history: English and Spanish---through March 18th!

The cornerstone of this historical presentation are two simultaneous exhibitions, Alexander Hamilton: Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, which examines the life and prolific career of now-popular American statesman Alexander Hamilton (c. 1755–1804) and his lasting influence on shaping the foundation of the modern United States, and Meanwhile Out West: Colonizing California, 17691821, which explores Spanish Colonial California during the period of Hamilton’s life. 

Together, these two exhibitions present, side-by-side, two versions of the United States’ colonial history, British and Spanish. Realigning the frame of American history beyond the revolutionary thirteen colonies, symbolized by the story of Alexander Hamilton, we include the complicated Spanish colonial and Native Californian world along the Pacific Coast. In doing so, the exhibitions implicitly ask the questions: Who tells the story of the United States? Who tells the story of California?

The exhibitions are on view through March 18, 2018 at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, .